The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 543: What Are The Other Players Up To?

Different games

The Fat Man stood on the veranda, studying the scene with approval. To the north, a row of mountains rose green against the sky. They might not have been as rugged as the Alps -- that famous testing ground of men -- but a dense cover of jungle rendered them every bit as impassible. To the south, the bay opened onto a flawless blue ocean, but a curve on its eastern side, imperceptible from offshore, hid the harbor and air station from any passing ships. His men had taken to calling this place the Dragon's Lair. He smiled, knowing why they'd chosen this name.

Before him, the other dragon rode from her mooring -- 829' long, 113' wide, 5.4 million cubic feet, with six 12-cylinder Maybach diesels producing 500 hp each. She might not have been as fast as the ship the Englisch had stolen or powerful as the cruiser the Japanisch had copied from the Amerikaners, but a payload fraction approaching 50% meant she could carry more than 60 tonnes of ballast, fuel, and armament. With the new weapons from Ruhrstahl, she was an invincible piece in this game of chess.

Boot heels sounded con stairs to his right. He turned to acknowledge Lothar's salute. "You report," he asked curtly.

The captain gestured toward the waiting airship. "Mein Herr, the Drachen has been refueled, resupplied and the crew are at their stations. We are ready to lift at your order."

"And you have the weapons to replace the shipment lost at Saigon?"

"We finished loading them this morning, including the new lufttorpedos."

"Gut," said the Fat Man. "Those will make short work of the Japanisch cruiser. You have planned your attack on their base?"

The airman nodded. "Ja, Mein Herr. We will approach from the south, timing our arrival for noon, when the sun will be behind us. But is this fraulein who gave us its location to be trusted?"

The Fat Man made a dismissive gesture. "Our agents are holding her until her information has been put to the test. She knows what will happen if it proves false."

The Commander stood at the entrance to the headquarters building, watching as the supply train pulled to a stop at the depot. Behind it, the narrow gauge rail line crossed a bridge, then followed the river bank toward the north. A row of hills to either side hid the air station from all but the most direct overflight. Strongpoints dug into their crests rendered it impregnable to any plausible assault. His men had taken to calling it Kagoshima Castle, after birthplace of the Satsuma rebellion. It was a fitting name for the spiritual successors of Saigo Takamori's samurai.

He turned his attention to the cruiser that rode from the mast like a thundercloud -- 785' long, 133' wide, with a monumental 7.4 million cubic feet enclosed volume. Eight 600 hp diesels, smuggled from Nagasaki to the secret yard in Korea, could drive her more than 75 knots. Her design might have been copied from a foreign power -- a classic example of using others' strength against them -- but she was more than a match for any of their adversaries. This was the stone that made their position unassailable in this game of Go. Now was time to place it.

"Your status," he asked the captain.

The officer didn't need to consult the reports he was holding. "We completed refueling, resupply, and rearmament this morning, and are ready to lift on schedule."

"You are prepared to deal with these new weapons we have seen?"

"Hai. Defensive gunners have drilled against targets to achieve perfect accuracy."

"Good. The Doitsunin cannot know that we have found their base. You will achieve complete surprise."

"May I ask how we can be confident of its location?" the captain said cautiously.

The Commander debated whether to reply, then decided it could do no harm to discipline. "Our intelligence officers deduced this from material provided by the captain of tramp steamer. There is no reason to suspect deception, for he cannot have known its significance."

The Governor called the turn, then waited for his guests to place their bets -- as host, it was natural for him to serve as banker. Lady Warfield smiled and made her reply. The Frenchman turned over the cards, and shook his head in resignation, and pushed the chips across the table.

"Un bon jeu,"  he observed politely.

The Baroness' smile broadened. She might have affected artless unconcern when play began, but this mask had slipped as she scented blood. "It was kind of you to offer me the chance," she said. "How goes the game against our mutual adversaries?"

Now it was the Governor's turn to smile. "Les Allemands and les Japonais are both upset at what they perceive to be an act of betrayal..." his gesture suggested amazement at their naivety, "...but this is insignificant compared to distaste they feel for one another. We have taken advantage of their mutual enmity to set them at odds. They will destroy each other while our friend completes the refiner."

Lord Warfield turned to Karlov. The Russian had declined an invitation to their game of chance and was studying the station where the Coup de Grace rode from the mast. The Warfield's ship might have been comparatively small -- a mere 1.2 million cubic feet -- but the station itself was defended by a ring of gun emplacements, dug in and revetmented against all but a direct hit by a powerful bomb. Beyond it the land rose steeply toward the chain of mountains that divided the island in two. The Baron gestured toward one of the peaks -- an extinct volcano topped by the masts of the radio detection apparatus they'd inherited from the Japanese.

"How much longer will this take to complete the engine?" he asked.

The Russian paused as if performing a calculation. "A few more weeks, if all continues on schedule," he after a moment. "The shipment your Captain Wasserman stole from the Japanese should provide all the components we need. We must allow a few more weeks for a calibration and test before it is ready for demonstration to interested parties."

The Baron nodded, "That should serve."

Next week: Let's Have A Look, Shall We?...

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